Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an integrative cognitive-behavioral treatment that combines supportive individual therapy with skills-oriented group therapy. DBT emphasizes a collaborative working relationship between the client and therapist, including a mutual commitment to treatment goals. The philosophy behind DBT focuses on the opposing dualities (the “dialectic”) of accepting yourself just as you are, within a context of trying to make positive changes in your life.

What Skills Will I Learn?

Within the Group format, four different skills modules are taught:

  • Mindfulness skills are central to DBT and are the only skills highlighted throughout the entire training.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness skills include strategies for asking for what you need, learning how to say “no,” and coping with interpersonal conflict.
  • Emotion Regulation skills include learning how to identify and label emotions, how to change negative emotions and increase positive emotions.
  • Distress Tolerance (Crisis Survival) skills involve learning how to tolerate and survive crises, including acceptance and willingness to change.
How Does DBT Work?

Both individual DBT therapy and group skills training are required for DBT to be most effective. Each client has an individual DBT therapist who is responsible for helping you replace behaviors that aren’t working with adaptive, skillful responses to stressful situations. Individual therapy sessions are typically held once a week, and your therapist functions as a DBT Coach, providing support and reflection while also encouraging you to practice and improve newly learned skills.

The DBT behavioral skills are taught in the context of a weekly educational skills training group. Each group therapy session meets for 90 minutes each week for a total of 12-14 weeks. For maximum learning and change, we strongly encourage our clients to complete at least two full rounds of group skills training (24-26 weeks total) while continuing to engage in individual therapy.

DBT Offerings at GMH

DBT Family Skills Training

DBT Family Skills Training: a 12-week workshop series designed to provide parents with the skills to better cope with and support their emotionally reactive child or adolescent. Parents often struggle with managing their own feelings and needs while remaining connected and compassionate to these sensitive children who seem to demand so much. Co-lead by Dr. Mary Anne Hartye and Dr. Biancamaria Penati, who have been working together as a team to help children and adolescents, and their parents, for over 18 years.

In this workshop, parents learn the same DBT skills that their child is learning, in order to help the entire family to communicate and function in a healthier way. As a parent, learning DBT Skills will allow you to:

  • Help everyone in the family to get their needs met.
  • Help understand the difficulties encountered by those who are emotionally sensitive and reactive.
  • Improve family communications and relationships.
  • Gain a common language with your child or adolescent and support his/her in learning new coping skills.
  • Reduce the level of emotionality in the family when talking about difficult issues.
  • Reduce shame and blame, providing new understanding and a problem-solving attitude.
  • Assist family members in changing aspects of family functioning for the benefit of future generations.

Mary Anne Hartye, Ph.D. and Biancamaria Penati, Ph.D.